Starring Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley
Directed by Harold Ramis

My Rating:

A dumb comedy, just being dumb, delivers quite a few chuckles, actually.

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Bitable Bytes:
"A Winning Number!"
"...A rightful place in the top comedy movies of all time!"
"The and furious!"
"You're bound to think it wasn't too bad!"

What to do while watching:
Pass gas surreptitiously.

What to eat while watching:
Little Debbie Snack Cakes.

Harold Ramis probably wakes up each morning with a feeling like that expressed by David Byrne in "Lifetime Piling Up": "I got a winning number." Though maybe he also has a pang of jealously, great as he is, that he isn't as famous a comedy director as Rob Reiner or as recently popular as Christopher Guest. If I were he, I'd be upset that my name isn't more prominent in the credits of the classic Animal House. Still, two of his films--Groundhog Day and Caddy Shack--have a rightful place in the top comedy movies of all time; and a slough of others ranging from Vacation all the way down to Club Paradise, fill out his body of work. Appearances in Stripes and as the wonky Egon in Ghostbusters showed that his real talent was as a writer/director. This case is greatly supported by Exhibit A: Bedazzled. Only a great director could turn such a well-worn story into something somewhat entertaining.

Bedazzled re-retells the story of the sad guy who sells his soul to the devil to become happy. Has this story been told in fewer than eleven hundred films, books, TV shows, songs, and campfire stories? Off the top of my head, I can think of about a dozen:

Goethe's Faust, of course, the one that started it all;
Damn Yankees, the musical;
"Devil Went Down to Georgia," from the Charlie Daniels Band;
"Titties and Beer,"
in which Frank Zappa sings about a biker selling his soul for the title delights.
Homer Simpson selling his soul for a donut;
An episode of The Twilight Zone, and probably an episode of The Brady Bunch;
Chris King
in O Brother Where Art Thou playing a blues singer based on Robert Johnson, who spread the word that he'd sold his soul to play guitar;
"Sold My Soul," by Nazareth, not to mention countless devil-dealing references by Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, Slade, AC/DC, and Dee Snyder of Twisted Sister, among others of the ilk;
"Sympathy For the Devil" from His Satanic Majesty's Request, by The Rolling Stones;
George W. Bush's
pre-9/11 deals with the Taliban, and his post-9/11 dealings with Afghanistan's Northern Alliance have been called "Faustian";
"Satan Gave Me a Taco" by Beck;
(the former) starring Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, and Raquel Welch as Lust

My point is that Mr. Ramis takes this enormously worn rag of a story and spins it yet again--and he manages to elicit some chuckles from the unsuspecting. I don't know how he did it. Perhaps he made some kind of barter with arcane and supernatural interests.

As a viewer, the first step is to forget that you already know that the poor shlub, in this case Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser) is going to get his soul back and learn something very valuable in the end. With that formality taken care of, you can just enjoy the gags, which don't fly nearly as fast and furious as in Airplane, for example, but are still present enough to do some good. But you've got to play dumb. Shake the hand of lowest-common-denominator humor. You'll enjoy the experience more. Make a quick deal with your intellect to let the ridiculous stereotypes glide off you and you'll enjoy the mugging a lot more. Ignorance truly is bliss.

With a crush on a co-worker and the social skills of a Sneezy the Dwarf, Elliot is desperate enough to attract the attentions of the Dark Lord, played seductively by the edible Elizabeth Hurley, who lays the familiar contract on him. (She is as hot as I remember Kelly LeBrock being back in the days of Weird Science. She's got that same Britannic purr: hot!) As in the 1968 version, Elliot gets a whopping seven wishes, and each one is devoted to trying to get the mousy-cute coworker to love him. But each time, that tricky little devil puts poop in the punchbowl so to speak, and drives Elliot to nullify the wish. In the end, an unexpected selfless act voids the contract, and Elliot is free to experience the joy of having his soul back with the added bonus of a happy ending.

What makes this fun to watch is the silliness of Fraser's overacting plus the sexiness of Hurley. They each have a certain chemistry--not with each other, but with the camera. Fraser clowns very hard, and I cannot deny that it is generally annoying. But almost in spite of myself, I laughed now and again, though I rolled my eyes much more frequently. I don't think he's destined for the comedy hall of fame, but, again, Harold Ramis probably is.

Maybe it's because I expected a movie on par with Scary Movie or Boot Men--something that would get nine stars out of pity--that Bedazzled delivered an enjoyable night's viewing. So if you really want to watch and enjoy this movie, pretend I just dissed it non-stop for ten paragraphs. Expect the worst thing you've ever seen. You're bound to think it wasn't too bad.

Will it always work this way? If you expect a film to be just god awful, will you be able to enjoy it despite its mediocrity? Once again, I have a film for the person who can best explain in fifty words or fewer why they would like to be the scientist who tests the hypothesis. Send an e-mail now. Include your mailing address. I will choose the brightest and best response on March 15.

Rangers is the film. It stars Corbin Bernsen, who looks on the cover of the box a lot like a cut-rate Bruce Willis. It also stars Matt McCoy and Glenn Plummer who you doubtlessly remember from Speed as well as Speed 2. (Speed 3 was canned mid-production, so you didn't see him in that.)

This looks like one of those nauseating war films wherein some actor with a huge gun stands in front of July-fourth explosions and intones, "War is hell" as though he were saying, "God, I love all this fighting and killing!" The tag line is "For Honor. For Country. For Justice," but the main subject promises to be guns. No fewer than five are visible on the box.

Want to share a happy story with Gooden?

Gooden loves to share!

For your collection: Bedazzled(VHS), Bedazzled(DVD), Bedazzled(1968) with Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, and Raquel Welch as Lust

Gooden's enjoying the sounds of: Manu Chao's Clandestino: Eso es Rock en Español. Great beats and fantastic sounds including the dive-bombing-alien-from-Galaxians sound. Includes a new version of "King of Bongo" by the seminal Mano Negro. Hard to resist these rhythms, hijo. Seems like some of the gutsiest rock these days is being done outside the U.S.

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